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Into the blue

At Young Eagle events, licensed pilots volunteer their time and aircraft to take children ranging from age 8 to 17 on airplane rides over Falcon and the surrounding area.The Peyton chapter of the Experimental Aircraft Association sponsors Young Eagle events six times a year, starting in March and running through October, said EAA Chapter 72 President Sandy Martin.”The rides give them a way to learn about aviation,” Martin said.Retired U.S. Air Force Pilot Lee Wolford participated in the October event.”We do it because we like kids, and it’s a good excuse to fly,” Wolford said. “One of the earliest kids I flew with now has a pilot’s license.”Pilot Jim Densmore, a software consultant for IBM, also participated in the October event.”I own the airplane I flew Young Eagles in,” Densmore said. “My dad purchased that plane in 1960, and it’s been in our family ever since. I grew up with that airplane.”First time Young Eagle flyers can be quiet about the experience, Densmore said.”If you ask them a question, you get one-word answers. Sometimes, you don’t know what the real reaction is,” he said. “You scratch your head and you wonder ‘Gee, what came of that?'”Then you talk to the parents of a kid who never said a word during flight, and they tell you that it’s all the kid talked about for 17 straight hours over dinner and breakfast the next day. Or you see four students you gave a ride to last time, and they’re back.”Densmore said he’s never had a negative reaction from a Young Eagle.He had one situation where one of the female Young Eagles was a “bit fearful,” he said.When he asked her if she still want to fly, Densmore said he didn’t get a definitive answer. But shortly after they took off, the fear subsided. “As soon as I get in the air, she’s got this unbelievable grin plastered on her face,” he said. “So that was my answer. She couldn’t stop talking after the flight – she was thanking me and wanting to give me a hug.”Being a pilot isn’t for everybody because it requires discipline, Densmore said.”We need pilots. The pilot population in this country is small and aging,” he added.There are other ways to make a career out of aviation. The industry needs mechanics, air traffic controllers and dispatchers.For Densmore, flying is a hobby, but some of his clients are in aviation and he has used his aviation experience on the job.Flying as a hobby can be expensive, but no more than boating or skiing, he said. In career terms, flying is no more expensive than any other serious career endeavor.Densmore recommended gliding as a less expensive form of flight. “You can solo a glider as early as age 14 and get your license at age 16.”After a flight or two, students who want to learn more about flying can take the Aviation Education Foundation of Colorado ground school course through EAA Chapter 72.”Sandy and Richard Martin started the foundation and have put a couple of kids through ground school at no cost,” Wolford said. “The kids started as Young Eagles and now they have their license. We even get kids from Denver and Castle Rock in the Young Eagles program.”Both the foundation and the Young Eagles program have grown, with all volunteers. There’s nobody in it that makes any money from it – quite the contrary, Wolford said.For more information on the Young Eagles program, visit EAA Chapter 72’s Web site, For information on the Aviation Education Foundation of Colorado, visit

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